CONCLUSION

 

 

      François Guillaume's vision for the future of La Borne, partly achieved in l948, was to come to a full flowering in the decade following his death in l969, and the status of the village as an important centre for contemporary ceramic creation recognised as such by Yvonne Brunhammer in l982.  More than sixty years had elapsed since he, as an enthusiastic young man, had first allied his youthful vigour to the aging and feeble traditional craft-industry.  Of these years, more than forty had been devoted to either accomplishing himself, or witnessing the final accomplishment of, the diverse aims he had formulated to ensure the preservation of La Borne itself, its unique products, the 'art populaire', and the history of their authors, the Talbots.

 

      His own productive life in the village had occupied more than a quarter of a century of a very full life, and if in l948 he felt assured that a renewal of a creative spirit had taken place, the continuing arrival of dedicated and serious-minded ceramic artists, from France and other parts of the globe, was an ever-present confirmation that his actions had been justified.  Of all those to whom is attributed a role in effecting the transformation of La Borne, the research has shown that it was that of  Guillaume which was the most constant and enduring one, conceived, directed and acted through by himself, and motivated by an ever present desire to preserve a distinctive part of the patrimony of his beloved region.  Irrespective of the importance of the contributions of the others, their interests and motivations were different, and either because of this or force of circumstances, their roles became supporting ones in the more intricately orchestrated scenario devised by Guillaume.

 

      Joseph Massé's commitment to the political arena, at a time when the nation was beset with internal strife before being plunged into war, defeat and the German Occupation, restricted his active creative life to little more than ten years, and of these, it had only been during the first few that he had forged a link between La Borne and the wider world or ceramic art.  The correspondence of his nephew, André Ducaroy, had shown that Massé's decision to engage in ceramics was initially motivated by a desire to establish a commercial concern on his property at Le Tremblay.  It was on considering various alternatives that he was somehow seduced by the image of Jean Carriès, and the clay, wheels and unique kilns of the region, before deciding to pursue the independent path of 'artisan potier de Soye-en-Septaine.'  His copious notes and records reveal that his interest in the village lay primarily in its technology, and within a few short years that technical knowledge had been assimilated into a more extensive and diverse range of influences.  But his presence had been a significant early step, and with that of his cousin, Joseph de la Nézière, appreciation of the 'art populaire' of the village marked the first serious resolve to form collections.

 

      Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that Joseph de la Nézière also took up pottery, but during Guillaume's early years in the village, and more particularly at the time of the organization of the l935 exhibition in rue des Arènes, he used his many contacts, in Bourges and in Paris, to provide a mature and experienced support which helped to bring it to the attention of the world of officialdom.  His death in l942 denied him the opportunity of seeing the totality of Guillaume's programme being bought to fruition.  The aged and infirm Paul Beyer, transplanted from his Sévres atelier just as the technological research of the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires had been completed, encountered the same lassitude and local suspicion that had spurred Guillaume to turn to an outsider, Jean Lerat, in order to fulfil his plans. By the time of his death in l945, though he had left unchanged the potters of the village, Beyer had helped to spread the name of La Borne, and it had been his distinctive use of its materials and techniques that later attracted other émules, Pierre Mestre and Anne Petroff.  Though there are family recollections of pottery being made by the Parisian goldsmith, Lucien Chollet, in the nineteen twenties, his sculpture was mostly made in his later years, and at a time when so much had already been accomplished by Guillaume and Jean Lerat.

 

      Coincidentally, but conveniently, the involvement of Guillaume sub-divides into discernible stages that correspond to the third, fourth and fifth decades of the present century.

 

      Thus, in the early nineteen twenties, the image that emerges is one of a well-educated young man, seeking and finding means to express his artistic desire, travelling the region on behalf of his father's business, and making personal contact with the manufacturers and artisans who produced many of the glass, porcelain and ceramic products sold in the Maison Guillaume.  All of these were themselves practioners, like Marc Larchevêque, ceramic scientist, innovator, writer and teacher, anxious to induct the enthusiastic and inquisitive  Guillaume into the mysteries of their craft.  In La Borne, he was fortunate to be befriended by Armand Bedu, ten years his senior, himself just recently returned to the village after his industrial experience, and bringing with him the wider knowledge of oriental ceramics and a desire to modernise his traditional craft-industry.  It was through such contacts that Guillaume acquired an understanding of the materials and techniques of each specific process, one of which enabled him to exhibit his range of grès at the l926 exhibition in the Palais Jacques Coeur.  By that time the Maison Guillaume was the agent in Bourges for the work of Joseph Massé, and though not recorded, it is unlikely that Guillaume had not encountered the older man on his many visits to La Borne, nor that he had heard that he and Joseph de la Nézière had started to collect examples of the 'art populaire.'  On the eve of assuming full responsibility for the family concern, the 'Tarif Confidentiel' of l928 shows that, among other things, he had already chanelled his own artist abilities into the production of ceramic editions, mouled cubist masks, industrially produced by Denert and Balichon, and his limited series of 'Bonne histoire', made by himself at La Borne.  These were his own designs, marketed under the label of 'La Cocotte', the atelier d'art he had just established, and which was formally launched with the outcome of his first major collaborative venture, the Service Baffier, designed by himself and Edouard Duneufgermain.  The dedication of the wine-service to the Berrichon sculptor was an avowal of his regionalism, never overtly expressed, but always unfolding its presence in the titles he chose for his editions, the motifs selected for decoration, and all the meaning that is encapsulated in his repeated use of the term 'notre Berry.'

 

      It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he was influenced by the enthusiasm for modern decorative art engendered by the exhibits, reports and philosophies emanating from the l925 Art Déco exhibition.  Closer to home, the modern section of the l926 exhibition of glass and ceramics in the Palais Jacques Coeur had brought to Bourges the work of many of the most noted ceramic artists and designers in France, all of whom had been acclaimed in Paris.  It was immediately following these events that he took the initiative to establish his atelier d'art, the first in the province, and to launch his series of exhibitions, the setting which would be used to such effect in his programme to promote La Borne and the art of the Talbots.  An illustrious model for both ventures may have been provided by the attendance, in the Palais Jacques Coeur, of the innovating administrator from Sèvres, Georges Lechevalier-Chevignard.  But irrespective of these probable influences, the fact remains that by the end of the decade,  Guillaume had laid the foundations of the structure upon which all his subsequent activities could develop.  He had nourished a deep and enduring love for his region.  He had harnessed his own artistic interests to the industries and artisans of that region, and had established the forum whereby he could satisfy his need to share his interests and enthusiasms, his desire to serve, inform and educate the public, and above all, to remind it of its shared national and regional patrimony.

 

      By l930, his maturing historical and archaeological interests were to be set in a more formal and erudite context when he joined the Société des Antiquaires du Centre.  Though it is possible that he was already familiar with some of its literature, his membership would inevitably place him in closer contact with older and more experienced members of the society and, more importantly, with that corpus of knowledge contained in its Mémoires.  As the research has shown, that devoted to La Borne was small, consisting primarily of the writings of Boyer, de Caumont, de Kersers and de Laugardière.  In addition to Amyé Cécyl's 'Histoire du royaume de Bois-Belle', these were to remain his only sources, and of the quotations he recorded in his 'Notes', it was for that of Arcis de Caumont that he reserved particular attention.  Though he may have perceived himself to be the one who would assume the task suggested by de Laugardière in l869, the unique position accorded to the de Caumont material can be seen to have greater significance for the young researcher.  In the first place, Guillaume's language and the sentiments expressed in the texts of his exhibition catalogue are evocative of those of the nineteenth century archaeologist, dominated by a concern that the decorative art of La Borne may soon have disappeared from the countryside.  But a more authoritative claim that Guillaume was either influenced by de Caumont, or detected in his writings sympathies similar to his own, is to be found in the prominence which he gave to the religious art of the village, and more specifically, the funerary monuments, noted by de Caumont in l869 but no longer to be seen in the cemetery at Henrichemont, the few fragments remaining in l922 having been salvaged by Louise Berchon and deposited in the collection of the Musée Adrien Dubouché in Limoges.

 

 

      During the sixty years that separated  Guillaume from these early observers, attitudes towards the work of the Talbots had changed.  One outcome of the nineteenth century had been the growing interest in regional music, oral literature, popular imagery, and the image of the peasant that had culminated in their recognition as an important aspect of the national cultural heritage.  That which distinguishes Guillaume from Massé and de la Nézière is that he recognized the importance of the sculptural ware as a unique example of 'Art Populaire', one which, if not researched and recorded, might soon be lost forever.

 

      In the few short years before the l935 exhibition, it is evident that his thinking had matured to the point where he had thought his ideas through to a stage of having devised a plan of action, and his letters to the journals 'Beaux Arts' and 'l'Illustration' are convincing testimony that this was so.  These letters, his 'Notes', and the text for his exhibition catalogue, show him to have been motivated by an instinct for preservation.  For this reason he had already embarked on forming his collection, and the organization of his 'Notes', in book form, is indicative of an intention to proceed with his research in a methodical manner, and with a view to making known to a wider audience the 'art populaire' of the Talbots.  Finally, and it is of importance in understanding the decision he would later take when he embarked on his practical programme for a renewal in La Borne, all these documents show that, despite his admiration for the utilitarian ware, his primary interest was restricted to that period when the art of the image-makers - les imagiers - of La Borne was at its purest, in glaze quality and in technique, that is, when all the sculptural forms had derived from the rigour of the potter's wheel, and the use of moulds had not yet made that intrusion which initiated a decline.

 

      Of those who were interested in La Borne,  Guillaume was in a unique position in l935 in being able to use his commercial premises for display purposes.  By then, his series of exhibitions had acquired an importance sufficient to attract Georges Lechevalier-Chevignard to accompany and present the Sèvres exhibits in December l934.  The attendance of many public, commercial and artistic personalities at that event, as well as the reaction of the press, are proof that such initiatives were looked forward to with some anticipation.  In addition, the support he received before and after his La Borne exhibition is indicative of the esteem in which he was held by individuals who were prepared to exercise their influence to encourage and promote his aims.  Before June l935, the efforts of friends like Lechevalier-Chevignard and Joseph de la Nézière were of inestimable value, the latter in eliciting influential support in both Bourges and Paris, and the former by putting him in contact with 'Beaux Arts' and communicating with M. Haumont, the conservator of the Musée de Sèvres.  Haumont's attendance for the opening was a prelude to the interest shown by other members of the official world of the museums.  The correspondence of the period reveals the extent to which the exhibition had stimulated interest, queries for help in identification and attribution suggesting that many pieces, their provenance by then forgotten, had indeed been retrieved from many garrets.  That this response continued up to the exhibition itself is shown by the original photographs, where a number of the pieces on display had obviously arrived after the catalogue had gone to press.

      Despite the rudimentary nature of the research, the physical appearance of so many of the pieces had been sufficient to arouse further responses, those of the local press, those that opened new avenues for research, like the location of the funerary monuments, or those that added to the existing information, like the identification of the iconography of the Musée du Berry's épi de faîtage, the Legend of Saint-Eloi.  At regional level, the more erudite article by Louis Lacrocq underscored the significant contribution that Guillaume had made to the history of 'art populaire'.  At first glance, his stated aims appear to have been achieved, partially at first, and then more completely as, in the years immediately following, the work of the Talbots attracted the interst of the 'official' world, as represented by Pierre-Louis Duchartre and Georges-Henri Rivière of the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires, and La Borne and the traditional craft-industry became a subject for their research team.

 

      For all that he had set out to achieve in l935,  Guillaume had then been in a position to exercise some kind of personal control, but concealed in his 'Notes Historiques' one discerns the genesis of that other aim that was eventually to lead to the renaissance of La Borne.  Embodied, perhaps literally or perhaps symbolically, in the little horses of the ten-year old Roger Giraud, is the hope that La Borne itself might once more become a centre for 'faiseurs de rustiques figulines.'  At the time, there is no suggestion that Guillaume perceived himself as being in a position to do anything other than to aspire to a regeneration from within the village community itself, and for the remaining years of the decade, as his attention was occupied by many other things, his energies to promote La Borne were devoted to consolidating those aspects already established.

 

      By l942, a change in tone, that reflects a pronounced change in his thinking, can be detected in his recorded comments.  His brief note of l950 clearly expresses his assessment of the situation in La Borne in the early days of the war; he was convinced that the total disappearance of the traditional craft was inevitable.  When this would happen, with it would die the possibility of any kind of artistic renewal.  The evidence of those years, Marc Larchevêque's document for the Inspector General of Industrial Production in Orleans, and Guillaume's proposals for the rationalisation of production in the Renault pottery at Argent-sur-Sauldre, show the extent to which he was prepared to go to support and prolong the productive life of the village.  But the latter also shows that, despite his efforts in the Chamber of Commerce in Bourges, he had become disillusioned with the potters and their apparent lassitude in the face of the increasing decline.  If he had merely required utilitarian ware to stock his shop in Bourges, these were still available from both Renault and La Borne.  If, in addition, he required decorated pottery, his own collaboration with Armand Bedu had shown that their output could satisfy that need.  But the needs of the Maison Guillaume incorporated a further dimension.  For decades it had sold articles of acknowledged artistic quality, and if to satisfy both this requirement and to realise the ambition that he had long cherished for a renewal of a form of ceramic art in La Borne, it was not a potter he required, but an image-maker.  It is in calling Jean Lerat a 'céramiste' that the text of Chaton and Talbot is misleading.  Though he had modelled the ceramic head of Medusa which had been shown in Paris in l937, Lerat was a sculptor and modeller, and it was as such that Guillaume prevailed upon him to work in La Borne.  His brief, as described in Guillaume's l950 note, was to take up again the tradition of the Talbot family.  Success in this would obviously mean that Guillaume could rely on Jean Lerat to provide him with required artistic objects as long as the emergency lasted, but in l950 he recalled a further aim, one which is supported by contemporary evidence, and in which can be discerned a long-term vision that would see other outsiders arriving to emulate his work and to ensure a renaissance of La Borne as a centre of creative ceramic activity.

 

      The content of Lerat's letters of the period, the comments, however brief, written on fiches, and the further development of particular forms or themes, are all an indication that the operation was directed by Guillaume, though patently in consultation with Jean Lerat.  From an analysis of the fiches, the two parallel phases can be seen developing, firstly the decorated pottery, initially thrown by Armand Bedu or one of his employees, and then decorated by Lerat, and secondly, the first sculptural pieces, patently trials with a view to proving the potential of the technique for the execution of larger forms.  This procedure was not common to the village, neither would it have been to Lerat, therefore it could only have been contemplated as a result of Guillaume's wider ceramic experience.  But the realisation that it was successful, and Jean Lerat's competence and confidence assured, very soon led to the large scale sculpture in which the first tangible links with the spirit of the past were achieved.  Lerat's decision to throw on the potter's wheel, and we do not know if it was a personal choice or one discussed with Guillaume, was soon to be seen to be forging even stronger ties with the tradition of the Talbots, some component parts of his sculptural pieces being 'montées comme des pots', as Jean Favière was later to describe the work of Jacques-Sébastien.  By early l943, when the first 'émules' were to appear, Lerat had already started making figurines which, irrespective of modelled additions, derived their main characteristic from a wheel thrown form, and in so doing he had assimilated a complete repertoire of skills that could be justifiably identified as those of a ceramic sculptor.  It was the production of forms derived from such skills that Guillaume emphasized in his letter of 26 June l943 to Jacqueline Bouvet, and though few of her fiches remain, they are sufficient to show that her conception of form emanated form this source.

 

      Though the production of functional pieces, often in large numbers, was to remain a feature of the Atelier Guillaume up until l945, it was to be the increasing emphasis on this sculptural exploration which was to mark its success in Paris, both in the Galerie Rouard and the annual exhibition of the Société des Artistes Décorateurs.  The use of the material and the surface qualities attainable in the 'grand four' introduced a different conception of ceramics to those who were accustomed to either the lively colour of faïence or the reserved forms and subtle stoneware glazes of such artists as Decoeur and Lenoble.  When the break-up of the collaboration came, it is understandable that  Guillaume would endeavour to maintain an interest in a project in which he had not only invested energy and finance, but also his time, more than twenty years in carefully nursing his vision through to a reality.  The facts uncovered by the research show when the split occurred, but behind these lie private reflections and motivations that remain undisturbed.  Guillaume himself has left no comment, but in the article in Le Berry Républicain of January l946 and in the catalogue for his 'Renaissance de la Borne' of l948, he did not claim any credit for himself.  La Borne, as he perceived it, had experienced a renaissance, and he may have felt that this was reward enough.  Those who had contributed in any way to making it a centre of ceramic activity were represented, Massé, Beyer, Rozay, Gütte Eriksen and Ivanoff, but it was for Jean Lerat, and his wife, Jacqueline, that he reserved the place of honour.  Though they had been nurtured and directed by Guillaume during the days of their collaboration, their independence had not, by then, substantially changed the nature of the work they were producing.  André Rozay, having learned to throw on the tour à bàton, had started to use thrown elements as sculptural components or primary forms, something which was beginning to appear in the work of Ivanoff also.  Though this common factor obtained, each of the above, as well as Gütte Eriksen, were also revealing themselves as individual creative artists.  The same would be observed in the work of those who were soon to follow, Pierre Mestre, Elizabeth Joulia, Yves and Monique Mohy, Anne Kjaersgaad and Jean Linard.  Can it be taken for granted that Guillaume acknowledged these, with their diversity of backgrounds and approaches to ceramics, the type of 'émules' he had longed for?  The presence of the work of some in his collection infers that he did.  Other than when involved in production himself, he does not appear to have adopted a dogmatic or judgemental position.

 

      In the early nineteen-sixties, just as the exhibition "Potiers en Terre" du Haut-Berry was being acclaimed in Bourges and in Paris, the traditional pottery finally expired.  Though the last of the maître-potiers might say 'C'est plus La Borne', it was the demise of their La Borne that they were lamenting.  But a new La Borne had literally arisen from the ashes, and new flames were being ignited in new fireboxes.  l960 witnessed the arrival of Guy Schneider, Claudine Monchaussé and Pierre Digan.  With the latter, a semi-industrial approach provided employment and training for many young stagiaires.  With the assistance of Janet Stedman, who arrived in l968, many of these established their own workshops in the village.  But by this time, the malady that had plagued his latter years had finally conquered, and  Guillaume has left nothing to record his reactions to all that had then taken place.  After his death in l969, the seventies witnessed an even greater expansion of its activity.  In l97l, with the expressed aim of making their work better known, a newly formed Association des Potiers de La Borne elected Pierre Mestre as its first president.  In l973, one of the unused schools in the village was placed at the disposition of the Association by the Municipality of Henrichemont, to become a permanent exhibition centre.  The first international symposium was held in l977, with thirty ceramic artists from eleven different countries participating.  This was soon to be followed by others, in which the central feature was the firing of one of the remaining 'grands fours', a venture which brought out of retirement the few remaining potters who had once worked in the traditional workshops.  The most recent was held in June l990, with artists from twenty countries in Europe, the American continents and south-east Asia contributing.  In addition to the firing of the grand four, the symposium, 'La Borne en Feu', was devoted to the firing of twenty-four different types of wood-fired kilns:

 

      In l983, the Association Dioscesaine de Bourges and the civic authorities of Henrichemont, with the personal support of M. Yves Rocard, the father of the then Prime Minister, agreed to establish 'l'Assocation de la Sauvegarde et Protection du Patrimoine Potier et du site de La Borne', an echo of Guillaume's vision of fifty years earlier.  The disused church in the village was made available for thirty years as a museum, to house a permanent collection of exhibits representative of the traditional industry, and to mount each year, between Easter and All Saints Day, retrospective exhibitions highlighting different aspects and themes of its decorative production.  Inaugurated in l987, in its first year it welcomed more than ten thousand visitors who came to view the 'art populaire' of the Talbots which had been the stimulus for all  Guillaume's work.

      Of the pioneers of those early years, André Rozay still lives and works in the one-time home and atelier of Alphonse Talbot, producing, when age and health permit, portraits, sculptures composed of thrown elements, and modelled figure composition depicting aspects of Berrichon traditional life.  Elizabeth Joulia, now with an impressive national and European reputation, still occupies the place where  Guillaume established his independent atelier, the workshop of Camille Talbot-Senée which he leased in l943.  Vassil Ivanoff's earthly remains are buried in the garden close to his studio and grange, which house many of his pieces.  Not far from La Borne, the Musée Ivanoff was inaugurated in l988 in part of the Château d'Argent-sur-Sauldre.  In l962, on the occasion of a major one-man exhibition of Ivanoff's ceramics in Amsterdam, the Dutch critic Hans Redeker had written, 'The veritable 'key-names' of the ceramic revolution in France are not Picasso and Vallauris, but Ivanoff - whom one could compare to Bernard Leach - and La Borne, names indissolubly linked with this indestructible material, at once different and generous, stoneware.'  It is to produce their stoneware that Jean and Jacqueline Lerat still use the clay and the wood of the region to create such pieces as were displayed in their l989 retrospective in the Château de Ratilly at Treigny.  Retentive of the philosophy formulated in La Borne, the continuing evolution of their sculpture exudes an enthusiasm and bouyancy that belie their mature years.  The collection which  Guillaume assembled, an object of reference as Yvonne Brunhammer has called it, has been augmented by further purchases made by his family following his death.  The most unique and important private collection of the 'art populaire' of La Borne, it was acquired for neither personal aggrandisment nor ostentatious display, and today it remains as he had kept it, preserved and securely stored, awaiting the day when an appropriate home can be found to present this distinctive manifestation of berrichon and French patrimony to future generations.

 

      During the course of this reasearch, an examination of the private papers and records of  Guillaume, Joseph Massé and Vassil Ivanoff revealed that other areas, beyond the limits of the study being reported here, merit further study.  Guillaume's designs for his collaboration with the regional glass and ceramics manufacturers remain to be studied, as do Joseph Massé's copious observations on life and the practice of the traditional craft of La Borne in the early nineteen twenties.  Massé's significance as an individual creative artist deserves close scrutiny, as does that of Vassil Ivanoff who, despite his representation in a number of prestigious collections, has not yet been subjected to the meticulous attention of a serious researcher.  The same applies to André Rozay, Elisabeth Joulia, and Jean and Jacqueline Lerat whose ceramics have carried the renown of La Borne to many national  and international venues.